GEAR & TECHNIQUES HOW I GOT THAT SHOT BY HOLLY STUART HUGHES
CLIENT: Cole Haan
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Andy Gray
BRAND DESIGN DIRECTOR: Elyse Siegal
ART DIRECTOR: Kate Evans
“GROUPS ARE PROBABLY one of the
hardest things to shoot,” Jake Chessum says.
The portrait photographer has been hired by
editorial, commercial and corporate clients to
bring his exuberant portrait style to photographs
of actors, filmmakers, athletes and musicians.
There are many challenges to corralling several
subjects at once, he says. “It may sound stupid,
but remembering everyone’s name is right up there, especially when
you have to direct someone. What are you going to say: ‘Hey, third guy
from the left?’”
For a holiday promotional mailer for Cole Haan, Chessum was
hired to photograph the funk and soul band Sharon Jones and the
Dap-Kings. Chessum had worked on the shoe company’s previous
holiday ads, making upbeat portraits of individual artists and leaders.
For the new promotion, he says, “They wanted it to look loose
and reflect the personalities of the members of
the band,” both in individual portraits and in a
group photo of the musicians. Chessum would
photograph them on a 42-foot cyclorama at Pier
59 studios in New York City, near the set where
the band was simultaneously shooting a video
promotion. The photographer would have only a
few minutes for each portrait session, pulling band
members onto his set whenever there was a break
in the video shoot.
Chessum’s goal was to shoot one group portrait
in-camera, and capture enough material to
composite a second group portrait from four to five
plates. Chessum organized every aspect of the shoot, from the lighting
to directing, to help keep the energy and attention of his subjects from
flagging while he captured multiple variations.
The Cole Haan still shoot was a big production, with stylists and their
assistants, seamstresses, clients, the band’s management, a digital tech
and Chessum’s own assistants on the set.
ABOVE: To create the individual and small-group shots that would make up the final, composited image, Jake Chessum wanted a broad light source that would allow his
subjects the freedom to move around, “so they don’t feel tied down,” he says. BELOW: Jake Chessum (left) with musician Snoop Dogg.
The portrait photographer shares his techniques for planning
and directing a successful group portrait.